Many current protest initiatives at Pratt that owe their start to the different movements that are seen in other parts of this exhibit. Movements such as Black Lives Matter, which is happening both at Pratt and across the United States, and student organizations such as BSU, are just two of the initiatives that are working to create an inclusive and equitable experience for all students at Pratt.
BSU is still going strong in the Pratt community. As a student organization, they are actively recruiting new members through their Engage page and their events. Since the Covid-19 pandemic has shut down in-person events for the foreseeable future, BSU has switched to online events.
Pratt has made many efforts to invoke change within the institution in relation to racial injustice. The creation of the Center for Equity and Inclusion, established in 2016, is one of those efforts. According to their webpage, the CEI’s mission is: “To educate, empower, and advocate for students, faculty, and staff to raise critical consciousness around diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice.” Located on the Brooklyn campus, the CEI hosts events such as the Pratt Community Dialogue series and the Diverse Voices Film Series and creates resources such the one featured here.
Another institutional addition hoping to invoke change was the addition of The Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion. Established in 2018, the Office of DEI oversees the CEI in order to “build a unique intellectual, artistic, and creative community that welcomes a diversity of identities, perspectives, values, ideas, experiences, and beliefs.” The office published their first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Progress Report on October 1st of this year.
The Pratt Student Government (SGA) has had their own responses to the current protests. The student government is responsible for all student activities and involvement at Pratt. Through their various social media channels, they have made their opinion on the murders of this past summer known. Their response included solidarity with the BLM movement against anti-black racism and police brutality. The Pratt SGA vowed to address the issues of the social issues in relation to how they’re both affecting and have affected the environment at Pratt.
This past summer in June 2020, the Pratt Institute held an event called Community Dialogue: Campus Safety and the NYPD. Students, faculty, and staff were all invited to join in on the discussion. The idea behind the event was to discuss the protests and police brutality that had been happening during the previous months, and how Pratt can move forward to both keep Pratt community safe and also work to come up with new solutions on how to move forward. The reaction from Pratt students to the actions taken by Pratt’s administration, such as these events, was varied. Many students felt that the Pratt administration wasn’t doing enough to mitigate what was going on in terms of protest. Other students felt outraged about Pratt allowing police cars to park on campus during the protests. Other students felt that Pratt’s response was stagnant and not nearly enough.
An example of the fraught relationship that Pratt has had with the NYPD is shown through the Pratt Student Government demanding that the institute breaks their relationship completely with the NYPD. This includes not just breaking their ties with them symbolically but monetarily. Through these demans, the Pratt SGA wanted to stand in solidarity with both the Black Lives Matter movement and all marginalized communities at Pratt.
Black Lives Matter is a movement that started in 2013 with the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. While student activism has been alive and well at Pratt since before the Black Lives Matter movement started, BLM brought new light and awareness to issues of violence and racism that had been occurring for centuries.
BLM Pratt has a strong presence on social media and were holding in-person events up until the COVID-19 lockdown. In-person events like the Black Lives Matter Teach-in on February 21st and virtual events such as Black Under Covid have helped to make this movement an important and ongoing one at the Pratt Institute.